Walking Pneumonia (and the Boogie Woogie Flu)

Note: You can silence the music by clicking the pause button in the upper right corner of your screen.

 

Well it’s week three of enduring what people around me call “the Crud”. Coughing, sneezing and feeling just miserable. Monday around 3:00 PM Diane, my partner in business and many other things, called out from her office “Why don’t you go home!” How sweet, I thought. She’s being compassionate. But then she said “I’m tired of listening to you”!

I broke down and went to my primary care Doc yesterday afternoon. His verdict “Walking Pneumonia”.  I’ve heard of it before but never really knew what it means.

Walking pneumonia is how some people describe a mild case of pneumonia. Your doctor might call it “atypical pneumonia” because it’s not like more serious cases.

So sez Web MD.

If you have this condition, you probably won’t have to stay in bed or in the hospital. You might even feel good enough go to work and keep up your regular routine, just as you might with a cold.

Pneumonia with out the fringe benefits.

Since last July I’ve been on Medicare with a supplemental private policy I pay for myself. The office visit and a Rite Aide bag full of prescriptions all happened on the same day  with very modest co-pays. The Doc says I should be fine by the week end. I consider my self fortunate (blessed?) to have such access to health care. My Republican friends would say, you work hard so you have earned your health care coverage. (Sigh!) Which brings us to consider you know what.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office whose current Director was appointed by a Republican Congress says 24 million American will likely lose their health care in the next ten years under the new plan. Back when I was a trial attorney I’d prepare for any contested court hearing by writing an outline of my opponent’s strongest argument. Likewise in politics I really try to get in someone’s shoes and understand why they believe what they believe. Understanding the logic of the other side in the health care debate is beyond me. The argument comes down to provide tax cuts to people who make more than $200,000 annually at the cost of quality health care for tens of millions. It’s not an exaggeration to say People Will Die.

Last week end the Washington Post did a deep dive in West Virginia coal country. About 74% of these residents voted for THAT GUY and just about 74% depend on the Affordable Care Act or the expanded Medicaid for their health care. Again, trying to put myself in the other guys’ shoes to understand the logic just leaves me shaking my head.


Since the election I’ve changed the way I consume news. I’m weary of the 24 hour news cycle. And, frankly, I simply can’t stand to hear THAT GUY’S voice. I now curate morning and drive time listening with podcasts. During March the leading Podcasts are encouraging listeners to introduce pod casting to others in an effort they have dubbed “Try Pod”.

Washington, DC; February 22, 2017 – For the first time, leading podcast publishers have joined forces to introduce new audiences to podcasts.

During the month of March, the hosts of hundreds of shows including Stuff You Should Know, Planet Money, Missing Richard Simmons, and Crimetown, will encourage listeners to introduce a friend, relative or coworker to a new podcast, and, show them how to listen if they don’t know how. Listeners will be asked to share stories of why they listen and their favorite podcasts using the hashtag #trypod.

Here’s a good place to start; Episode 56 of Shankar Vedantam’s “Hidden Brain”. It’s called Getting Unstuck. 

At one time or another, many of us feel stuck: in the wrong job, the wrong relationship, the wrong city – the wrong life. Psychologists and self-help gurus have all kinds of advice for us when we feel rudderless. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore a new idea, from an unlikely source: Silicon Valley.

Life coaching from, who da thunk, Software Engineers. This is a great use of 28 minutes of your time – even if you are old enough to collect Medicare.

Have a great day and beware of the Ides!

Don’t Drink the Water

When I turned on the kitchen faucet, like most of you, I didn’t give much thought as to how clean and purified water got all the way from the river to my house. At least not until about two years ago when Mayor Mike Duggan asked me to Chair Detroit’s Board of Water Commissioners. Now I think about it a lot.

We are in the third day of a “Boil Water” advisory for a large area of the city and I live smack dab in the middle of that area. So I’m boiling water and dirty dishes are gathering in the sink because I can’t run the dish washer.

The problem originated in the venerable Water Works Park just up E. Jefferson from where I live. This is one of three intake facilities that suck the water into the system from the Detroit River.  A key pump failed and the water pressure in the effected area dropped. Water mains (the big pipes that bring the water to your house) are old. Over time they accumulate a certain amount of what I’ll simply call crud. As long as the mains are pressurized the crud stays in place. But a drop in pressure can stir the crud up and release bacteria.

This is an interesting lesson in the geopolitics of Southeast Michigan. From the first days of the city’s establishment Detroit has been responsible for all of the water and sewerage activities for the entire region. The system began in Detroit and was expanded to meet the needs of the suburbs as they sprawled north, south and west (can’t go east because of Lake St. Clair).

In the early 70’s urban planners expounded the benefits of Regional Government – combining municipal services over the boundaries of many individual suburban communities. They have had success with the concept in places like Toronto. Since the Water and Sewage system provided services to the entire region this was a good candidate for regionalization. But the idea of regional government coincided with the election of Detroit’s, first Black Mayor the Honorable Coleman A. Young. He and many Black Detroiters were suspicious. Why was it okay for Detroit to run the system for many decades until a Black Mayor was in charge?The idea of Detroit’s jewels was born. The white suburbanites were out to plunder Detroit’s jewels; the Art Institute, the Zoo, Belle Isle and the water system.

For reasons that are complicated and involve corruption under former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the system came under the jurisdiction of a Federal Judge. On January 1, 2016 the fans of regional operation of the water system got their wish. The collecting and purifying of water and the treatment of sewage is now the responsibility of the Great Lakes Water Authority.

But as the saying goes – be careful what you wish for.

GLWA (glee-wah) leases the plant and equipment from Detroit and is responsible for all operations. Detroit is simply a retail customer like all of the other cities in the region albeit the largest at 45% of total capacity.

It’s GLWA that screwed up. And it’s not the first time. Residents of the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood got raw sewage in their basement after a very large rain storm last summer because 6 out of 15 pumps at the Conner Creek pumping station were off line.

Conner Creek Pumping Station on E. Jefferson

 

This is exactly what Coleman Young feared. If we don’t control the system Detroit will always get shitty service. Now for what it’s worth GLWA delivered foul smelling water to a number of Downriver communities earlier this year. How’s this for bureaucratic speak?

Cheryl Porter, chief operating officer for the authority, said that despite the odor the water is safe to use in any manner.

“In regard to the concerns about water quality in a number of Downriver communities, the authority has conducted extensive testing of its water at its Southwest Treatment Plant and in locations where odor is being detected,” she said in a statement. “Tests confirm that all regulatory water-quality standards are being achieved, and that the water is safe.”

In other words “hold your nose and drink”.

The “boil water” water advisory should be lifted today. It was issued in the first place in “an abundance of caution“.

I’m going to invite the CEO and the COO of GLWA to the next meeting of the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners. Someone has a lot of esplaining to do.  I think there will be a lot more wah than glee.

The Last Hallelujah

One thing you can say about Christian fundamentalists; they possess a much greater degree of theological certainty than most of the rest of us.

In spite of my own spiritual ambiguity I practice the religion of my childhood, Roman Catholicism.  I’ve been part of a faith community (we used to call them parishes) for a couple of decades now where the preaching is Jesuit and the music is Gospel. Not a bad way to spend most Sunday mornings. And for what it’s worth it’s significant to note that even Mother Theresa had profound doubts about the existence of God.

In his closing remarks last Sunday the Pastor observed that we had heard the last Hallelujah. I’ve not been paying attention to the liturgical calendar. Only then did I realize that today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the 40 day observance of Lent. “Hallelujah” and “Alleluia” become Voldemort – words not to be spoken aloud during Lent.

The Lenten tradition involves fasting, praying and alms giving.  As kids we were instructed to “give up” something. This usually involved abstaining from candy, movies or some other personal privation. When I was an undergraduate I teasingly asked a Jewish friend what he was giving up for lent. He didn’t miss a beat. “The Goyim”.

During Lent we also revert to the old Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays. This was something observed year round when I was a kid. The old Friday standby was mac and cheese, a dish I didn’t particularly care for. Thank God for peanut butter. The idea of not eating meat was thought of as a form of penance. I questioned the value of this penance when in High School I heard that one of the bishops had a standing Friday reservation at venerable Joe Muir’s seafood restaurant on Gratiot just south of Eastern Market. 

Seafood, of course, is not meat whether it’s canned tuna or poached sea bass. Eating meat on Friday was a mortal sin. Meaning if you did it and died before making a confession you went right to Hell. As a teenager my reaction to the news that we could now eat meat on Friday foreshadowed my career as a lawyer. “If it’s not a sin anymore what about all those poor bastards in Hell?”

Our friends who live downriver have this curious practice of eating muskrat during Lent. Is muskrat meat or seafood? A priest friend once remarked, “as far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to eat muskrat during Lent is doing plenty of penance”.

I’m thinking I’m not going to be giving up anything in particular for Lent. I’m making an effort to eat healthier which involves abstinence from some favorite foods. But that has more to do with concerns of the flesh rather than the spirit. I am going to make an effort to reach out to friends and acquaintances I’ve not had contact with in a long time.

Like a good play, life’s Third Act should include characters we met in Acts One and Two.